Jews in the abolitionist movement
Jews in the abolitionist movement
It’s very important to speak about the Jews and the abolitionist movement as the Jews are often accused of being the cause of the slavery. Despite the accusations, in fact the Jews played a very important role in the fight against the slavery both Reform and Orthodox Jews, although the most prominent abolitionists were Reform Jews or were affiliated with progressive Judaism.

Perhaps the best name to mention is Rabbi David Einhorn who was a great advocate against the slavery and his community the Sinai have been working on the abolishment of slavery already prior to the civil war. Einhorn’s passion came from his belief that Judaism is strongly opposing the slavery. As below we can find some of his personal letters that were unveiled thanks to the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati. From these archives we learn how Einhorn was enthusiastic making the black people free and that many of the Jews followed Einhorn’s ideology, but of course as always and everywhere there were opponents too.

When we speak about the Jews and their fight against slavery, we must mention August Bondi. Bondi was an Austrian Jew by birth who later identified as an Austro-Hungarian Jew. Bondi took part in the Vienna Revolution of 1848 and had a huge sympathy for the Hungarians and for his fellow Jews in Hungary who were fighting on the Hungarian side and for the Jewish emancipation. Bondi as a teenager already ready the Tanakh but also the New Testament. As he later stated under those principles, he could not have agreed with the slavery system in America.
Bondi knew John Brown, and this is something that needs to be highlighted. There were at least two other Jews in the close circle of John Brown. Bondi took part in the Bleeding Kansas campaign where they attacked slave owners and freed slaves. Therefore, it is no surprise that a little later Bondi will be joining the Union Cavalry. As a sergeant of the 5th Kansas cavalry regiment he saw multiple engagements and was wounded in action three times. Bondi was also a very proud Jew, and a very proud Reformer Jew. Being an American patriot, liberal of the age and Jew was the perfect fulfilment in Bondi’s example.

How the Jews were united as one nation and one religion (we’re speaking about the ones who lived on the North, but there are also examples of Jews leaving the South to fight for the Union such as the story of Leopold Karpeles (Medal of Honor recipient) or the escape of Colonel. Adolphus Adler a Hungarian Jewish 48’er) is also proven by the distinguished scholar Michael Heilprin.

Heilprin as a Polish Jew took part in the Hungarian revolution, learnt Hungarian language perfectly and became friends with Lajos Kossuth whom he followed into the emigration. Heilprin was also close to other Hungarian ministers of 1848. Upon his arrival to America he vehemently criticized the institution of slavery and as a scientist of the American encyclopaedia he became the author of a number of anti-slavery publications.
While the Southern-born Jews were fighting for the Confederacy they were not motivated by the slavery. The Jews of the South just like at many other places in the world wanted to show their loyalty to their land. They wanted to convince the Anti-Semites they would be brave and loyal in the first lines of the battlefield.
The below list which was also unearthed in the American Jewish Archives show Jewish abolitionist by congregation, we can see both Reform, Orthodox and unaffiliated Jews who have become contributors of the anti-slavery history in America.


Courtesy of the American Jewish Archives

Peter Kovacs Rosenbluth
Jewishdocumentaries.info Next: Reform Judaism, 1848, and the how Reform reacts on the assimilation?

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